The Trinity

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19).

- Matthew 28:19

Scholars of world religions typically name Islam as one of the world’s three greatest monotheistic religions, the other two being Judaism and Christianity. Islam itself emphatically preaches monotheism, believing that to speak of any kind of distinction within God is to blaspheme His name.

As such, Islam emphatically rejects the doctrine of the Trinity. Even though orthodox confessions and creeds of the Christian church confess belief in only one God, Muslims typically assert that Christians believe in three gods. The Qur’an also seems to teach that Christians believe these three gods are Mary, Jesus, and God the Father.

Our confession of the Trinity is necessitated by the teaching of the Word of God. Many passages of Scripture, such as Deuteronomy 6:4 tell us God is one. But this is not a unity without complexity, for other passages, such as the one for today’s study, tell us this one God exists eternally in three, co-equal persons.

The orthodox doctrine of the Trinity affirms that God is one in essence and three in person. Contrary to the assertions of Muslims and others, this is not a contradiction. If God were to be one and not one (that is, three) at the same time and in the same relationship, then we would have a logical contradiction. For example, if we were to say God is one in essence and not one in essence, then we would be confessing nonsense. But we believe that God is one and God is three at the same time, but the way in which He is one (in essence) is different than the way in which He is three (in person). To be sure, this doctrine is mysterious and we cannot understand it fully. Yet that does not mean it is illogical.

We conclude today by listing two practical effects of the doctrine of the Trinity. First, this doctrine tells us we cannot dismiss Jesus as one good teacher among many, for He is God incarnate. Second, this doctrine gives us confidence that we will progress in sanctification because it teaches us the Holy Spirit who dwells within us (Eph. 1:13) is God Himself, working to conform us to Christ.

Coram Deo

Many Christians misunderstand the doctrine of the Trinity. It is therefore vital that we understand it in order to confess it rightly. It preserves God’s independence, meaning He did not need to create the world in order to be in relationship, and it helps us to realize how much greater He is than us. Spend some extra time today reviewing the following passages of Scripture that teach us about the Trinity and try to read the writings of a good systematic theologian on the subject.

Passages for Further Study

Ps 45:6–7
John 20:24–29
2 Cor. 13:14
Gal. 3:20

We Recommend

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you do not make more than 500 physical copies. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred (where applicable). If no such link exists, simply link to www.ligonier.org.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved. Website: www.ligonier.org | Phone: 1-800-435-4343